The alleged racist remarks by Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association, have led several corporate backers – like Kia Motors America, Mercedes-Benz dealers and CarMax -- to drop their sponsorship of the team. CarMax was the first sponsor to abandon the Clippers.
The used-car retail giant told ESPN that it finds Sterling’s alleged statements about black players and celebrities to be "completely unacceptable." CarMax has been sponsoring the LA Clippers for nine seasons. Following CarMax’s lead is Kia Motors America, which said it was suspending its sponsorship of the Clippers over the "offensive and reprehensible" comments allegedly made by its billionaire owner.
Kia also serves as the official automotive partner of the NBA and sponsors TNT's "Inside the NBA." Kia spokesman Scott McKee said in a statement that as fans of the game of basketball, the carmaker’s support of the players and the sport “is unwavering." Mercedes-Benz’s dealers in Southern California dealers are also abandoning the Clippers.
Mercedes-Benz said in a statement that it is concerned about the alleged comments attributed to the Sterling. It said that the comments are deplorable and completely against the values Mercedes promotes as an organization.
Mercedes-Benz added that its dealer group shares the company’s concern and has moved to terminate its sponsorship of the Clippers.
Other corporate sponsors that have dropped their backing of the Clippers are Virgin America and State Farm Insurance. Entertainment news agency TMZ first reported about the Sterling’s alleged racist remarks.
It released an audiotape in which a man said to be Sterling is telling a woman allegedly his girlfriend not to associate openly with black people. Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates PR and an expert on reputation management, told Advertising Age that racist remarks or attitudes can surely to make corporate sponsors “on Madison Avenue head for the hills.” [source: automotive news - sub. required]